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Senators push forward with Ukraine aid package as their leaders say the world is watching

President Joe Biden says Republican holdup on sending new U.S. aid to Ukraine for its war with Russia was 鈥渃lose to criminal neglect.鈥 The comment came as he huddled with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz seeking to maintain support for Kyiv. (Feb. 9)

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WASHINGTON (AP) 鈥 As former President Donald Trump and a growing number of Republicans oppose U.S. aid to Ukraine, the Senate鈥檚 leaders argued in strong terms on Sunday that the money is crucial to pushing back against Russian President Vladimir Putin and maintaining America鈥檚 global standing.

In the Capitol for a rare weekend session, the Senate voted again to move forward with the assistance as Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky issued stark warnings about the consequences of abandoning longtime U.S. allies in Europe.

鈥淭oday it鈥檚 no exaggeration to say that the eyes of the world are on the United States Senate,鈥 McConnell said. 鈥淥ur allies and partners are hoping that the indispensable nation, the leader of the free world, has the resolve to continue.鈥

Sunday鈥檚 67-27 vote to move forward on the $95.3 billion aid package for Ukraine, Israel and other countries comes as former President Donald Trump, the front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination, is trying to kill the assistance and has escalated his attacks on the NATO military alliance.

Trump posted on his social media platform over the weekend that the U.S. should consider loaning Ukraine money, not giving it to them, saying that 鈥淭he United States of America should be 鈥榮tupid鈥 no longer!鈥

And the former president said Saturday at a campaign rally in South Carolina that Russia should be able to do 鈥渨hatever the hell they want鈥 to NATO members who do not meet their defense spending targets. He recounted a story he has told before about an unidentified NATO member who confronted him over his threat not to help them.

While McConnell has made helping Ukraine a top issue, an increasing number of members in his GOP conference have followed Trump鈥檚 lead and are opposing the aid, which Senate leaders have been trying to pass for months.

Without mentioning Trump by name, McConnell said in his opening remarks Sunday that 鈥淎merican leadership matters, and it is in question.鈥

Schumer said that if America doesn鈥檛 assist Ukraine, 鈥淧utin is all too likely to succeed.鈥

鈥淭he only right answer to this threat is for the Senate to face it down unflinchingly by passing this bill as soon as we can,鈥 Schumer said before the vote.

Amid shortages on the battlefield, the package would provide $60 billion for Ukraine, mostly to purchase U.S.-made defense equipment, including munitions and air defense systems that authorities say it desperately needs as Russia batters the country. It includes $8 billion for the government in Kyiv and other assistance.

It would also provide $14 billion for Israel鈥檚 war with Hamas, $8 billion for Taiwan and partners in the Indo-Pacific to counter China, and $9.2 billion in humanitarian assistance for Gaza.

The Senate is pushing through several procedural votes on the slimmed-down package after an attempt to pair it with legislation to stem migration at the U.S. border collapsed. Objections from Republicans adamantly opposed to the aid have delayed quick action, forcing the weekend votes as negotiations continue over potential amendments to the legislation.

Senators were still trying to negotiate a deal on amendments Sunday but it was uncertain whether they could come to an agreement that would move up a final vote. If there continue to be objections, a final vote could come midweek.

Schumer has said he is open to amendments -鈥 most of which would be likely to fail -鈥 but he forced senators to stay in session through the weekend to try and speed up the process.

鈥淚 can鈥檛 remember the last time the Senate was in session on Super Bowl Sunday,鈥 Schumer said as he opened the session. 鈥淏ut as I鈥檝e said all week long, we鈥檙e going to keep working on this bill until the job is done.鈥

In Sunday鈥檚 vote, 18 Republicans voted to move forward with the measure 鈥 giving supporters optimism that it will eventually pass. But the debate over the aid has deeply divided the Senate GOP conference, with McConnell digging in to support it while some of the most adamant opponents of sending money to Ukraine have increasingly criticized the party leader.

鈥淎merica is being invaded every day at our southern border,鈥 Florida Sen. Rick Scott posted on X, formerly Twitter, as voting got underway. 鈥淲hy would we vote to send money and resources to secure Ukraine鈥檚 border before we secure our own?鈥

Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul said the debt is a huge problem, 鈥渁nd yet they鈥檙e wanting to pass a bill to send money we don鈥檛 have. So it鈥檚 not a sign of strength, and it鈥檚 a sign of weakness.鈥

Sen. Thom Tillis, R-N.C., said that he can understand the reservations that voters have about voting for foreign aid, but that U.S. senators, who are privy to classified briefings, should understand 鈥渨hat鈥檚 at stake if Putin wins.鈥

鈥淎nd so some people around here if they really are being driven just by the perceptions of their base, they should grow a spine,鈥 he said.

Even if the Senate does pass the package, its future is deeply uncertain in the House, where a large majority of GOP lawmakers are firmly allied with Trump. Speaker Mike Johnson has been noncommittal on the aid and has said he wants the Senate process to play out.

Republican Sen. Markwayne Mullin of Oklahoma, a former House member who voted to move forward on the aid, noted that some members of the House have threatened to try and remove Johnson, as they did his predecessor Kevin McCarthy, if he holds a vote on Ukraine.

Still, 鈥淪peaker Johnson is now sitting in classified briefings that he hadn鈥檛 had the privilege to sit in鈥 before he was speaker, Mullin said.

Groves covers Congress for 老澳门六合彩.